Now, the LinkedIn Walled Garden

Professional networking site LinkedIn announced on 6th April something that Facebook had done a while back. LinkedIn was opening up its platform to developers

A platform company has the luxury of creating an illusion of openness. There is a term for it too – walled gardens. You are free to plant a tree, trim the bushes and grow some vegetables but all within the confines (or constraints) defined by the wall. The platform company, LinkedIn for example, provides the markup language that defines what you could do – maybe on your website – with their assets.  If that asset happens to be people, profile and their social behavior then the platform company is sitting on a proverbial gold mine. People – and social relationships – are ubiquitous. It is difficult to imagine a web service that does not have – or would not benefit from – some analysis of people, perhaps their members or people they refer to in stories or people that comment on their website – the list can be endless

I had written a post sometime back about how Facebook and LinkedIn seemed to be converging in terms of how people were using it. The two platforms continued to nudge – knowingly or otherwise – users in the path convergence with features like “what’s in your mind” (LinkedIn) and polls (Facebook). Indulging in some amount crystal ball gazing, the evidence of trend seems to imply that open social networking and institutional social networking will find their own spaces. In other words, time will see the emergence of specialized social networking. Think of a social network of medical professionals, researchers and investors that have interest in commodities and so on. Open social platforms have the right technology to diversify their ad-centric and premium membership (in case of LinkedIn) business to platform walled garden initiatives, but they were never designed to be specialized networking venues (This has worked, in a way, against LinkedIn earlier. While LinkedIn had “Answers” for a while, it never was able to offer what a StackOverflow could. Or for that matter Quora, which incidentally I think is a touch overrated)

Keep a keen eye on how social network platforms evolve. And watch out for firms that leverage the APIs to create innovative extensions

Picture courtesy: LinkedIn Developer website